War and Social Upheaval: Roman Wars


Figure 1.--

The history of ancient Rome spanned a millenium and included three eras (kingdom. republic, and empire. One of the great struggles of the clasical world was the Puinc Wars, the epic struggles between Rome and Cathage led by the military genius Hanibal. Many military struggles followed as the chillingly efficent Roman legions carved out the entire Mediterranranen world as an empire. Rome fought the Servile Wars during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. The Third Servile War was the Spartacus Revolt (73-71 BC) which posed a real danger to the Roman state. One of the best chronicled Roman campaign was Ceasar's campaign to conquer the Gauls. Crassus attempted to move the Roman empire east when he launched the Parthian Wars, but his army was destroyed in te desert at Carrhae. The Roman Republic was essentially finished when Ceasar crossed the Rubicon. The Western orientaion of Rome was settled at Actium when Ceasar's nephew Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus, defeated the forces of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. The Roman disaster at the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD helped to create the cultural and political divide between the civilized Roman west and the barbarous Germanic east that affected Europe into the 20th century.

Gallic Invasion


Samnite Wars (343-290 BC)

Rome survived the invasions of the Celtic Gauls (early-4th century BC). The Republic having successfully repulsed the Gauls began to use its military prowess to expand (mid-4th century BC). Their first target was the Latin and Etruscan towns that had shifted aliegence he Gallic occupation. They also conquered other nearby towns that had never been apart of Rome. This made Rome the most powerful force no only in Latium, but all of central Italy. Once this had been accomplished the Romans looked toward the rich farm lands of Campania to the south. The Samnite Wars were along with the Punic Wars perhaps the most important in FRoman history. Victories in Samnite Wars established the Roman Republic as the supreme power on the Italian peninsula. There were three Samnite wars (343-290 BC) as well as intervening Latin War. The first Samnite War was fought (343-41 BC). The second Samnite War was fought 327-04). The Third Samnite War was fought (298-290 BC). This left the Etruscans completely subjected to Rome.

Punic Wars (264-146 BC)

One of the great struggles of the clasical world was the Puinc Wars. The Punic Wars were the epic struggles conducted from 264 BC to 146 BC between Rome and Cathage over control of the Mediterrean Sea. These wars began with Carthage the dominant force in North Africa and the western Mediterran an Rome a rising but still limited power in Italy. By the end of the wars, Carthage was in ruins and Rome emerged as the dominant Mediterrean power. The Punic Wars were a series of three wars between Carthage and Rome. The best know period of the conflict was the Second Punic War in which Cartheginisan forces were led by the military genius Hanibal. The greatest, but not the dessive battle of the War was Hanibal's victory over the Roman at Carrae.

Various Campaigns

Many military struggles followed as the chillingly efficent Roman legions carved out the entire Mediterranranen world as an empire.

Servile Wars (134-71 BC)

Roman experienced three major slave revolts which are known colectively as the Servile Wars. The first two occurred in Sicily, but documebntation is limited. They were supresed with considerable brutality. The third occurred in southern Italy and was kled by the gladiator Spatacus (73-71 BC). It was eventually supresed by Crassus and Pompey with great cruety. The Spatacus Revolt was much larger and posed a real danger to Rome. It is better document than the other two slave revolts.

Social Wars


Conquest of Gaul (58-50 BC)

The Gallic Wars were the campaigns waged by Ceasar in Gaul (modern France and the Low Countries). The Gauls were Celts divided into tribes. This lack of unity enabled Ceasar with a realtively small Roman force to defeat the numerically superior, but less well organized Gauls. There was no consensus in Rome as to the need to conquer Gaul. It was Ceasar who persued this perhaps the most important of all Roman conquests. Ceasar's first campaign was to prevent the Helvetii from entering southwest Gaul. Then the Aedui asked for his support in fending off the Germanic Ariovistus. Ceasar then pacified the Belgica (57 BC). Then he attacked the Veneti (56 BC). Next Ceasar moved into the Low Countries and crossed the Rhine beginning Roman efforts to pacify the Germaniv Tribes (55 BC). Then he invaded Britain in an unsuccsessful campaign (54 BC). Then Ceasar faced a Gallic revolt. Ambiorix raised some Belgian tribes which Ceasar dispersed. A more serious adversary was Vercingetorix who succeeded in uniting the tribes of central, eastern and northern Gaul in a general revolt. Ceasar campaign to defeat the revolt is one of the classic military campaigns in history. It is often said that that the victors right history. This is certain true with the Gallic Wars, both because Cesar conquered, but also he wrote a litteraey masterpiece to describe his conquests.

Parthian Wars (53 BC-217 SD)

The Battle of Carrhae was the opening engagement in a war that would last more than two centuries. Neither side would emerge victorious, but both would b significantly weakened. The Parthian victory over Crassus at Carrhae was massive (53 BC). The Parthias achieved a major victory over Mark Antony's army (36 BC). Parthian power had declined substantially by the second century AD. Trajan succeeded in seizing Mesopotamis (114 AD), but could not hold it. Roman Emoerors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus ruling invaded Mesopotamia again and sacked the Parthiaian stronghold at Ctesiphon. Internal disputes had weakened the Parthians. Septimius Severus seized Nisibis and created the Roman province of Osrhoene. He then sacked Ctesiphon again and created the province of Mesopotamia. Severus's son Caracalla persued the Parthian Wars. He attacked deeper into Parthia than any previous Roman commander (216 BC). He struck at Arbela in Media beyond the River Tigris. Although weakened, the Parithians forced the Romans to seek terms (217 AD). Caracalla himself was murdered on the way from Edessa to Carrhae, the sight of the early Parithian victory.

Roman Civil War

The Gallic Civil Wars played a key role in the Roman Civil Wars. Ceasar before his Gallic campaign was a popular figure in Rome. It was in Gaul, however, that he honed his military skills, made a fortune, and developed a unbreakable bond with his legions. The money from bouty and the sale of captives as slaves helped to finance Ceasar's popularity in Rome. Ceasar eat and slept with his men. He knew each of his cetorians, the backbone of the amy, by name. He promoted inovative policies such as rewarding retiring soldiers with small farms. It was these legions loyal to Ceasar personally and not the Republic that were to crossed the Rubicon with him. The Roman Republic was essentially finished when Ceasar crossed the Rubicon. The Western orientaion of Rome was settled at Actium when Ceasar's nephew Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus, defeated the forces of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.

Germanic Tribes

The Roman disaster at the Teutoburg Forest (9 AD) helped to create the cultural and political divide between the civilized Roman west and the barbarous Germanic east that affected Europe into the 20th century.

Conquest of Britain

Julius Caesar while campaining in Gaul launched two expeditions accross the Channel (55 and 54 BC). Ceasar decided against a major military expedition. It is not enirely sure why. Presumably he concluded the conquest would not justify the expense, especially when the situation in Gaul itself was not yet settled. Ceaser did, however, report on these explots to his adoring public back in Rome. The subsequent Roman invasion came a century later. Roman attempted to bring Britain within the Empire through diplmatic initiatives. By the time Rome initiated the conquest of Britain, Gaul had been firmly Romanized. Rome's new emperor, Claudius (43 AD), athirized The invasion. It was Claudiu's first foreign expedition. Successful military expeditions were important in establishing a prestigious reputation. Claudius assigned Aulus Plautius to carry out the invasion. The Britons were a Celtic people, related to the tribes of Gaul which Ceasar had conquered. The British proved to be a substantial military challenge, taking several decades to accomplish. Eventually Roman armies subjugated the British Celts and the era of Roman Britain began.

The Decline of Rome

Western and Eastern Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire in the West would be another interesting era to assess.







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Created: 1:50 PM 9/4/2004
Last updated: 1:33 AM 10/31/2011